PRIESTVILLE — It was another busy time on June 5 as The Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility hosted its second annual community supports fair to assist inmates with their future life choices.
About a dozen self-improvement, health, education agencies and advocacy groups gathered in several rooms at the facility to offer an opportunity to connect with community partners before they transition back to the community.
The fair is designed to supplement the facility’s regular programming to help inmates before their release.
John Scoville, director of correctional services in the province, and facility superintendent Paul Young led the tour.
They described how the inmates can access the agencies represented at the fair once they leave the facility, as well as how vital it is given the short remand and imprisonment times the inmates experience.
“They’re more likely to follow through if they start off connecting with the services,” Scoville said. “They hand out cards and talk with them, and we try to match them up with the services. It gives us a chance to participate with community agencies.”
Many of the agencies have local personnel at the fair, while others are from throughout the province, as the inmates are, he said.
The list includes the Canada Revenue Agency to help inmates compile income taxes, as well as Employment Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and the Nova Scotia Community College.
“It’s eye-opening,” NSCC representative Mora Giovannetti said. “There’s lots of interest.”
Other agencies include Alcoholics Anonymous, Family and Community Services, Community Corrections, Child Welfare, the John Howard Society, KidsSport and the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network.
“It’s been really great,” Pictou County Community Services representative Tina Crawford said. “A lot of them didn’t know about what help they can get. They’re from all over Nova Scotia and we’re the same all over.”
She works New Glasgow and was at a table with fellow Community Services representative Angie Coady.
“I found them really great,” Coady said. “They’re very interested in our programs, especially employment support.”
Part of the tour included visiting a class whose students were receiving GED instruction from Andrea MacGregor.
“She’s an outstanding teacher,” Young said. “The GED rate is tremendous. They really appreciate what she does.”
Young described how some inmates are studying for their GEDs on line and receiving their courses on line. Visitation is also on line.
The tour included a demonstration of the facility’s scanner that is used on inmates as they arrive at the facility.
Facility staff member Brandi Vaughan showed how the scanner operates after Young placed a bucket containing a paper punch whose image appeared on the screen. Much smaller objects are also detected.
“The scanner has been very effective,” Young said. “The more you do it, the better you get at detection.”
The inmate population at a given time is mostly male, with few exceptions. At any time, only male operators scan males and only female operators scan females.
Young also spoke about the gardening and chicken programs that have been introduced.
Pots with young herbs and vegetables were seen growing in a window near the facility’s main entrance, while eight chickens and two coops arrived recently.
“We’re trying to generate some outside activity for the inmates,” he said.
Inmates already have opportunities for food preparation and laundry duty.
The Northeast fair is in the spring, and there are two in either the spring or fall at the province’s four facilities in Dartmouth, Yarmouth and Cape Breton.